Mr. Powell, you live and work in London. According to the Economist Intelligence Unit's annual index (2014), London is one of Europe's least livable cities. Isn’t this surprising, given that London’s infrastructure has long been a model for other big cities?
There are many published city indices, and cities rank differently depending on which one you look at. The key is to understand what is being measured. If you look at the Global City Index, London is at the top, and the Global Power City Index has London in the top 3 of every category. It has gotten there with a world-class transport network and a robust long-term plan that protects green spaces and other natural assets. All of this encourages businesses to invest in London. Of course, London can be expensive, and like many cities London has issues with poverty and affordability that affect its position on the livability index.
The reason other cities see London as a model for infrastructure is that London makes timely and sound decisions regarding infrastructure investments and finds innovative ways to build a business case and finance such investments.
To address 21st century challenges, London’s Mayor has created a “Smart London” board. How do you define a “smart city”?
A smart city optimizes its infrastructure and maximizes the efficiency of the services it provides. It uses digital connectivity between systems and data to deliver those services and respond in real time to the needs of its citizens. This can include use of ticketless systems, real-time travel information, intelligent crowd control, and helping to avoid congestion. It can also affect an entire community, with low carbon districts, clean mobility options, exemplar housing and buildings all contributing to a better life.
What are the main emerging trends in the way cities are adopting smart urban technologies? How crucial will digital technologies be for our lives in cities?
To become a smart city, you need a Smart City Plan, ensuring that infrastructures can connect, data can be used and enhancements implemented. This journey is unique for each city. The big trends we are seeing include tackling road traffic congestion through intelligent traffic management, policy incentives and technology to encourage more people to use public transport. We are also noticing smart parking solutions that can reduce congestion by up to 10 percent.
We are seeing a big push to tackle poor air quality in cities through levers such as Low Emission Zones that encourage cleaner vehicles and cleaner forms of energy generation for the city. We are also seeing a big drive in the building sector to use automation to drive down energy use and carbon emissions through more real-time control.
The use of big data and machine-to-machine learning, analytics and automation is changing the infrastructure world. At Siemens we are ensuring that our portfolio stays at an advanced state with its digital layers. With our knowledge of different sectors, our analytics know-how and use of this data in real time, we are driving the future of smart cities in a real and pragmatic way.